Rhinelander’s Bryce Schickert awaits a pitch during Game 1 of a Great Northern Conference baseball doubleheader against Antigo at Kretz Brothers Park Friday, May 10. (Brandon Kieper/Antigo Daily Journal)
The Rhinelander High School baseball team's hopes of winning a Great Northern Conference title came an end Friday at the hands of an all too familiar foe.
Antigo's Brady Renfro scattered three hits in the opener and the Red Robins scored seven times in their final two at-bats in Game 2 to sweep a doubleheader from the Hodags 10-0 and 8-4 Friday at Kretz Brothers Park. The games were originally scheduled for Thursday but pushed back a day due to rain.
The results allowed Antigo to keep even in the loss column with Medford in the GNC race and mathematically eliminated the Hodags from conference title contention. The Hodags started Friday just 1 1/2 games out of first place in the conference.
The losses run Rhinelander's losing streak against the Red Robins to 14 games.
Despite a different cast of names, some things don't change, said Hodag skipper Joe Waksmonski.
"Antigo's still a good hitting team. Even though they have new names in the lineup, they're still the same old Antigo. They, 1-9, can put the ball in play and put the ball in play hard," he said. "Whenever we failed to make a play or made an error, Antigo immediately made us pay with a hit."
Antigo jumped on Rhinelander right away in the first inning of Game 1 with a pair of runs, tacked on two more in the third, one in the fourth and clinched the game with a five-run fifth. In all, Antigo tagged Rhinelander sophomore Isaac Bixby for 10 runs on 16 hits over five innings.
"Even though Isaac's line doesn't look that good, he did a decent job I thought," Waksmonski said. "Defensively, we had three or four plays behind him we really needed to make that we didn't. That let innings continue on when they should have been over."
Rhinelander could not get much going offensively, striking out 10 times in five innings against Renfro, who allowed only four base runners in the contest. Rhinelander's best threat came in the fourth as singles by Eric Grulke and Josh Randolph gave Rhinelander runners at first and second with one out, but Renfro struck out Liam Stevens and Bryce Schickert in order to retire the side.
"He was on today," Waksmonski said of Renfro. "Going into today, he actually had more walks than strikeouts on his GNC record. With us it was 10 strikeouts, one walk he finished with today. He threw the ball hard. We helped him a little bit chasing some wild pitches, but he threw the ball well."
Rhinelander led Game 2 3-1 after five innings. Nevin Cornelius walked and scored on a Nick Bretl fielder's choice to make it 3-2 in the sixth before Sebastian Noskowiak reached on a two-out error at third by Grulke. Eric Langseth followed with a double and Eli Fleischman singled after the mistake as Antigo took a 5-3 lead.
"Defensively, we were better but there were still a couple of plays (we needed to make)," Waksmonski said. "I think in that sixth inning early on there was an error and they followed that with a double and a single to compound our error."
The Hodags got a run back in the bottom of the sixth on three consecutive two-out singles by Walker Hartman, Bixby and Danny Zuiker, but Antigo tacked on three more insurance runs in the seventh and Fleischman retired the last four batters he faced to secure the win.
Langseth homered off Game 2 starter Josh Randolph to give Antigo a 1-0 lead in the top of the third, but the Hodags took the lead with three runs in the bottom of the frame. Stevens drew a bases loaded, two-out walk and Bryce Schickert followed with a two-run single.
"We had the three-run inning, but there were other innings where we had guys in scoring position and just couldn't come up with that hit and find a hole or Antigo's defense came up with a big play," Waksmonski said.
Randolph allowed seven runs (four earned) on 10 hits as he pitched into the seventh. Jacob Dreifuerst made his first pitching appearance of the spring, inheriting a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the seventh. After inducing a double play ball, Antigo strung together three straight hits off Dreifuerst to pad its lead.
Rhinelander (7-5, 5-5 Great Northern) took on Abbotsford/Colby Monday at Stafford Field in a game that concluded after deadline. The Hodags close out GNC with a home twinbill against Tomahawk Thursday afternoon.
"We just have to have two conference games left and we just want to win those last two games so we can finish above .500 in our conference," Waksmonski said.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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